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Dennis Hill

Family Farmers: Feeding the world, caring for the earth

By Dennis Hill

The United Nations has designated 2014 as the Year of the Family Farmer to celebrate the world’s more than 500 million family farmers.
The U.N. designation is designed to:

  • Recognize and pay tribute to the contributions family farmers make while feeding the world’s population.
  • Support the development of agriculture, environmental and social policies conducive to sustainable family farming;
  • Increase knowledge communication and public awareness of family farming;
  • Attain better understanding of family farming needs, potential and constraints, and ensure technical support; and
  • Create synergies for sustainability.

The United Nations made the designation because family farming is inextricably linked to national and global food security. Both in developing and developed countries, family farming is the predominant form of agriculture in the food production sector. Family farming includes all family based agricultural activities, and it is linked to several areas of rural development.

The importance of family farming is borne out by these numbers:

  • There are 570 million farms in the world, of which more than 500 million are family owned
  • These family farmers are responsible for at least 56 percent of agricultural production which includes grains, fisheries, forestry, and pastoral and aquaculture production
  • Family farmers work on a significant portion of the world’s farmland, including 83 percent of the acres in North and Central America.
  • Family farmers maintain high levels of productivity: In the United States, it’s estimated that family farmers produce 84 percent of all produce, totalling $230 billion in sales, working on 78 percent of all farmland;
  • In developing countries, women make up 43 percent of the agriculture labor, and in some countries, that number is about 80 percent of the agricultural labor.

North Dakotans understand the importance of family farming. Agriculture is still our state’s number one economy. North Dakota’s rural electric cooperatives join in this commendation of family farmers here in America and around the world.

We concur with United Nation’s observation that family farmers are feeding the world, while caring for the earth.

Dennis Hill, editor-in-chief of North Dakota Living, is executive vice president and general manager of the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, Mandan. Comments can be mailed to Dennis Hill, NDAREC, P.O. Box 727, Mandan, ND 58554-0727 or by email to


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